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Bloodgate affair will not harm reputation

WHETHER it be eye-gauging, drugs bans or the bloodgate scandal, it&rsquo;s probably fair to say the game of rugby has not enjoyed the best of press this summer.<br /><br />But once the Premiership gets underway in all its glory, starting with a Twickenham double-header this Saturday, then it&rsquo;s simply a matter of time before it&rsquo;s all forgotten.<br /><br />In all sport where winning is important, people will always try to do things to get ahead, and that is simply the case here. Yes, it&rsquo;s a form of cheating, but that, I&rsquo;m afraid, is the way sport is when so much at stake. I have sympathy for Dean Richards. He became embroiled in one of these forms of cheating but I don&rsquo;t think it is the blood incident itself which has earned Dean a three-year ban, but the subsequent cover-up that followed.<br /><br />I wouldn&rsquo;t wish a ban like that on anyone, especially someone like Dean Richards, but if he&rsquo;d have acknowledged that he made a mistake and apologised then I don&rsquo;t think the issue would have been blown up quite so much.<br /><br /><strong>ANYONE CAN BEAT ANYONE</strong><br />While all eyes seem to be focused on matters off the field, it&rsquo;s our job to concentrate on what&rsquo;s happening on it, and there&rsquo;s a small matter of a season opener against many people&rsquo;s favourites, London Irish, in front of a full-house at Twickenham tomorrow. It promises to be a fantastic occasion with our match followed by Harlequins v Wasps.<br /><br />Many people seem to have written us off this summer but each one of our players has played at least four warm-up games and are fit, healthy and raring to go.<br /><br />Into the squad come 12 new players, including four from the Super 14, while 14 have left, meaning we had to extend the warm-up period to allow the squad to gel.<br /><br />I believe we have a squad strong enough to challenge for a play-off place this year but the beauty of the Premiership is that anyone can beat anyone on their day, and that once again makes for an open contest.<br /><br />Leicester, Wasps, Harlequins and Irish will surely be the four to beat again, although I believe Andy Key and Neil Back will do a good job at newly-promoted Leeds.<br /><br />Brendan Venter is rugby director at Sarcaens RFC. For tickets call 01923 475222.